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WEG strives to become World number one

01 May, 2002

WEG strives to become World number one

The Brazilian motor-maker WEG has set it sights on becoming the global leader in the low-voltage motors market by 2007. On a rare visit to the UK last month, WEG chief executive Décio da Silva outlined his plans to achieve this goal.

He revealed that, despite the world`s economic problems, WEG had managed to increase it sales by almost 30% last year, taking its global income past the $600m mark. The company now employs more than 9,000 people producing around eight million motors a year.

But da Silva (above) warned that any company relying solely on electric motors, especially in Europe, "won`t be in business for very long". WEG has therefore been diversifying and, for example, is about to launch its own ranges of drives and soft-starts in the UK.

"Up to three years ago, WEG was known in the marketplace essentially for its motor products," da Silva says. "Now our goal is to sell systems as well." The company`s systems business already accounts for more than half of its sales, and it now offers turnkey combinations of motors, drives, PLCs, HV and LV switchgear, transformers and software.

Da Silva stresses that, like its motors, the control products have been developed and built in house. "From the earliest times, we recognised that our global success would be based on the quality and reliability of our products," he says. "Because of this we took the decision to develop and manufacture all of the components used in our products, even down to the resins we use to insulate our LV motors."

Similarly, he adds, the new WEG-made drive, soft-start and LV switchgear ranges are not "me too" products but are "market-leading offerings providing state-of-the-art features at very competitive prices". These products will make their UK debuts at the Drives & Controls show this month.

As part of its expansion plans, WEG is investing $50-60m in Europe this year and plans to have a manufacturing operation in the region by the end of the year. "We don`t want to be a Brazilian company exporting to Europe," says da Silva.

The company is looking for a suitable location for the plant, which da Sliva says, "we will probably acquire". It is likely to be in a country with low labour costs.

Da Silva believes that continuous investment is vital to ensure that WEG maintains its progress. Every year, the company invests 3.5% of its sales in technology, 1% in training, and 1.2% in quality programs. It is spending $150m on its Brazilian manufacturing operation over the coming three years.

WEG has also invested heavily in the UK where its enlarged (2,320m2) UK headquarters in Redditch holds what da Silva says is "probably the largest stock of standard, energy-efficient and hazardous area motors in the UK".

He expects inverters and high-efficiency motors (HEMs) to be the two main areas of growth in the near future, with HEMs already accounting for a fifth of WEG`s motor sales. But he sees scope for boosting efficiencies further and for working more closely with the electronics sector.

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